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Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki | by Arian Zwegers
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Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki

Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki


Easter Island (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui, Spanish: Isla de Pascua) is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.


Polynesian people most likely settled on Easter Island in the early second millennium CE, and created a thriving and industrious culture as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone moai and other artifacts. However, human activity, the introduction of the Polynesian rat and overpopulation led to gradual deforestation and extinction of natural resources which severely weakened the Rapa Nui civilization. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000–3,000 from an estimated high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier. European diseases and Peruvian slave raiding in the 1860s further reduced the Rapa Nui population, to a low of only 111 inhabitants in 1877.


At at the front of a very large grass plaza, the reconstructed 220 meter long ahu at Tongariki demonstrates late classical ahu design. Rough rock makes up the back and side walls while carefully shaped, smoothed and fitted basalt blocks form the prominent front wall. The top of the ahu is filled with much smaller rocks creating a level surface for the pedestals on which the statues rest. A typical poro ramp leads to the plaza below, some of which is also paved with water-smoothed stones.


The 15 moai at Tongariki probably were not all carved during the same period, as the facial characteristics vary as much as the differences in shape and size. All of them, as is true for nearly all moai, are hand crafted from solidified volcanic ash and consist of a head and torso with their arms at their sides and hands clasped together in front.


It is believed that the moai were originally intended to immortalize either deities or great chiefs of the ancient clans. For this reason, today Ahu Tongariki is regarded by many as a sacred site. To others, the moai just speak for themselves.


(sources: and

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Taken on November 29, 2011